10.21.2008

The Solution

We all have those mornings where we wake up in the wrong mood, or we don't like any of our clothes, or breakfast just doesn't sit right. Everyone you see crosses you the wrong way or says the wrong thing to you, and life is just monumentally unfair from the moment your eyes open.

Brian is saying to himself, "This is what Jennie is like after 8:30 at night!"

Hmm. Anyway.

Last week, Helen had that morning. We got to daycare, and she just wasn't ready for it. She knew the drill with the transition - get out of the car, get Alice to her room, give her hugs & kisses, and then head to her room - but as soon as I was shutting the door to the infant room, Helen went into full-on whine mode. As in, I don't want to go to daycare, I don't want you to leave, I don't know what else I want but right now YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING RIGHT WHINE WHINE WHINE.

When you're three years old, life is hard. You think you can do it all by yourself, and you definitely want to, but you don't have any marketable skills to put on your resume except "makes messes" or "screws up a perfectly good schedule." If you can paddle your canoe upstream, just because you can, you do. Even if that's not what your parents want you to do.

From the moment she was able to speak, I have taught her Mommy's Rules, which are as follows:

1. No whining.
2. No crying.
3. Do what Mommy says.
4. See Rule #3.

These rules cover a wealth of mistakes and potential problems. If she's in timeout, she knows why. Not doing what Mommy said is usually the biggest offense. But the whining gets me mad in a hurry, and I've tried my best to get her to stop doing it. She's okay about it most days, depending on how much she wants to watch Little Mermaid.

Last week marked her second week in a new daycare, and she had been doing stellar up to that point. I wanted her to do well, and I wanted her to like the new place. But that morning she kept telling me she wanted to go back to the old daycare, that she didn't want to be in the new daycare. And she really didn't want me to leave. She just wanted to bury her head in my neck, wrap her arms around me and never let go. Oh yeah - and the whining.

And instead of being mad, for once I was really, really sorry for her. I understood. Everything was still so new for her. Having one day in the past two weeks as Whiny Kid at dropoff time - well, that earned a free pass. Sympathy kicked in. So instead of getting mad at her about missing my bus or needing to hurry or being late for work, I took a deep breath and tried to talk her through it. I gave her all the reasons why the new daycare was better (she gets to see her sister, she gets to make new friends, she gets to learn new things, her teachers love her, etc.). She wasn't buying any of it. Her grip kept getting tighter, and I could not put her down at all.

This is exactly why they tell you not to reason with toddlers. I mean, she understands it, but that doesn't mean she has to agree with it. "Because I said so" is a perfectly legitimate response from a mom. But today, I knew I couldn't use it. I wanted her to be happy when I left, so that the next day and the day after that and every day would be easier for her. Forcing the issue today would only make it harder for everyone tomorrow.

Finally, I called her teacher over and explained that we were having a hard time this morning, and that Helen really wanted to go to her old daycare. Her teacher was not the least bit offended, and in fact was very sweet and gentle with Helen. Telling her that she had a toy she wanted Helen to come over and play with didn't work. Tack #2 was the trick, though. She said, "Helen, you know what, let's go over here and play with this, and then, after snack, I'll let you go see your sister, and you can give her a bottle. Okay?"

Helen's head popped up immediately. She looked at me, smiled, kissed me goodbye, and leaned over to her teacher. I mean, she changed in a SNAP.

Bribery will get you everywhere with a three-year old.

Alice has nursed since the day she was born. For the entire maternity leave, I nursed her. I pump at work so she gets bottles at daycare. No one else has fed this baby except her daycare teachers. Not even Brian has given her a bottle. Helen hasn't even asked to feed the baby - I don't think it occurred to her to ask, since she knows Alice gets her milk from Mommy. So this was a VERY. BIG. DEAL.

The teacher took a picture of them together at that feeding.

She hasn't made a peep about going back to the old daycare.

3 comments:

ElastiGirl said...

That teacher is priceless - and good for you for taking the understanding approach! It's so hard to know what to do - *high five*

Curly Girl said...

This is a yummy, yummy story. Thanks for sharing it. It is amazing that even though we are so far away, we share the same common bond of wanting what is best for our kiddo's. Love you cuz!

Samantha said...

What a great teacher Helen has! I love the picture of her feeding Alice, that is priceless for sure!